CubaBrief: Twin contagions interacting in Cuba to deadly effect; and Cubans call on the Castro regime to eliminate the internal blockade to save lives

Center for a Free Cuba president Ambassador Otto J. Reich and the Cuban Democratic Directorate executive director Orlando Gutierrez Boronat observed in their April 8, 2020 article “The Twin Contagions Facing Latin America” published in National Review that “Latin America is facing the simultaneous onslaught of two potent viruses: one biological, the other ideological. Many Latin-American nations lack efficient health-care systems and preventive measures to fight the former: coronavirus. The latter virus, totalitarianism, is not new to the region, but equally menacing.”

However, in the Cuban context the two contagions are also interacting and proving deadly for the inhabitants. Marc Frank of Reuters reported in his April 8th article, “Cubans cast aside coronavirus fears to search for scarcer food” that “residents of all ages are trudging from store to store in the country to locate scarce goods despite recommendations from health experts to stay at home and respect social distancing guidelines to avoid contracting the highly contagious disease. Communist-run Cuba imports more than 60% of its food, but the pandemic has forced its government to close the borders, denying it the hard currency from tourism needed to pay for goods from overseas.”

Mr. Frank then repeats the Castro regime talking points blaming U.S. sanctions. In 2016, during the Obama detente, when U.S. tourists flooded Cuba, the U.S. embargo was again blamed by The New York Times for food shortages caused by tourists eating goods that the planned economy had initially meant for Cubans, but the Castro regime failed to account for the rise in tourism.

However, Hugo Llorens and Kirby Smith in their 1998 paper presented at the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy titled “Renaissance and Decay: A Comparison of Socioeconomic Indicators in Pre-Castro and Current-Day Cuba” that among other things, looked at UN statistics on food availability before and after 1959. According to Llorens and Smith,”the Cuban leadership’s claim that the country’s food problems are due to the U.S. embargo does not hold up to scrutiny. The food shortages are a function of an inefficient collectivized agricultural system and a scarcity of foreign exchange resulting from Castro’s unwillingness to liberalize Cuba’s economy, diversify its export base, and pay off debts owed to its Japanese, European, and Latin American trading partners during the years of abundant Soviet aid. This foreign exchange shortage, not the U.S. embargo, has severely limited Cuba’s ability to purchase readily-available food supplies from Canada, Latin America, and Europe.”  The United States is also a major supplier of agricultural products to Cuba.

Communist central planning, the absence of the rule of law and a repressive dictatorship are a disastrous combination during a pandemic. It also means that claims that things are going well cannot be independently verified without journalists risking prison, or an international news bureau risking being expelled from the country. This has meant that outbreaks of dengue, cholera, and zika have not been reported in a timely manner, and lives were placed in danger due to the lack of transparency.

Voices inside and outside Cuba are crying out for this to change and are calling for an end to Havana’s restrictive policies.

The Patmos Institute is circulating a petition titled “No More Internal Blockade” that has already been signed by over 17,000 that identifies current practices of the Castro regime that will make confronting the coronavirus pandemic more difficult in Cuba asking that “the iron-fisted internal blockade that the totalitarian system has imposed on its own people for more than six decades” be eliminated. These include: *Lower the prices or suspend the payments for all ETECSA communications for three months. *Suspend the high custom fees to facilitate a Cuban-to-Cuban humanitarian bridge that would permit the importation of large amounts of food and medicines, as well as farm equipment, production equipment for small businesses, transport and cargo vehicles, seeds, fertilizer, clothes, shoes and food of all types and *The release of all political prisoners.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro on April 1, 2020 declared over social media that “in the face of the # COVID19 pandemic and lack of sanitary conditions in Cuba’s prisons, asking to free thousands of innocent Cubans who suffer political imprisonment or are in prison without having committed a crime is fair and necessary.”

On April 3, 2020 the Center for a Free Cuba sent an e-mail to prominent international human rights organizations recognizing that “with the threat of the  SARS-CoV-2 virus the freedom of 127 Cuban political prisoners, and over 8,000 Cubans charged with “pre-criminal social dangerousness” becomes an urgent necessity to save lives.

The Cuban Studies Institute performed an important service presenting a breakdown of the individuals who are in reality running Cuba today in a report titled “The Military Elite of Cuba: The Castro Totalitarian Legacy” that demonstrates that there is a military junta running the country led by Raul Castro. They are the true face of the Castro regime, and are the players that need to be persuaded/pressured to end the internal blockade that they have spent sixty one years building up and maintaining.

National ReviewApril 8, 2020

The Twin Contagions Facing Latin America

By Otto J. Reich and Orlando Gutierrez Boronat

Andrea Guerrero, 80, wears a protective face mask during the nationwide quarantine due to the coronavirus outbreak, Caracas, Venezuela, March 30, 2020. (Manaure Quintero/Reuters

Andrea Guerrero, 80, wears a protective face mask during the nationwide quarantine due to the coronavirus outbreak, Caracas, Venezuela, March 30, 2020. (Manaure Quintero/Reuters

Central and South America must contend not with just coronavirus, but also with the resurgent temptations of socialism and Communism.

Latin America is facing the simultaneous onslaught of two potent viruses: one biological, the other ideological. Many Latin-American nations lack efficient health-care systems and preventive measures to fight the former: coronavirus. The latter virus, totalitarianism, is not new to the region, but equally menacing.

The economic consequences of the worldwide economic stoppage will be especially harmful to a region that depends, in many cases, on tourism, services, and primary-product exports.  Nevertheless, the region can learn from democracies with a relatively low death rate to date from coronavirus: In Israel, South Korea, and Taiwan, the unity between the public and private sectors, clear and transparent information, social distancing, and other measures adopted by the populations and enforced by the government have so far prevented widespread deaths from the virus.

Latin American democracies concurrently face the resurgence of a familiar, yet lethal, virus.  Across the region, the ideological disease of collectivist totalitarianism still infects the unprepared or those looking for simple solutions. With the regional epicenter of the ideological contagion in Cuba, the influence of totalitarian tendencies is felt throughout the region.

Venezuela and Nicaragua remain under the grip of despotic regimes. Bolivia, which successfully prevented Evo Morales from consolidating a tyrannical socialist regime, may now face a relapse because of bickering among pro-democracy factions. In Chile, for 30 years a shining light of democracy and free-market economics in the region, a violent anarcho-Communist insurrection has hijacked what was a citizen drive for social reforms. Rapid modernization processes, such as Chile’s, often include segments of a population that lag behind or lack instruments of inclusion. The sane way to heal this is through the expansion of the democratic compact, and the generation of new opportunities through universal education and more economic freedom.  But reform is not the goal of the anarcho-Communists in Chile. It is destruction of democracy itself, in order to build a socialist revolution. The violence in the streets of Santiago and other cities is a premeditated effort by collectivists to destroy the free-market economic model because it was based on individual freedom, and because the Marxists could not abide a capitalist model that had consistently reduced extreme poverty. The radical agenda of the riots’ leaders, who publicly call for Chile to follow the path of Cuba and Venezuela, is a threat to the freedom, democracy, and pluralistic economy that country has developed.

Ironically, in Cuba, a country pauperized by a Marxist model for the past 61 years, there is a growing public cry demanding change. The dissent movement in Cuba is organic, emerging from diverse nuclei in the population. It often arises as a leaderless resistance, a natural response to the pervasive police-state repression of individual rights.

For over a year, even before coronavirus, protests grew. Millions of Cubans boycotted a regime-sponsored referendum, despite “voting” being enforced by the Communist Party’s mass organizations. The LGBT community carried out a large protest, and bloggers publicly gathered in Havana to demand an end to censorship. Protesting crowds forced the dreaded “Black Beret” repressive forces to retreat in Santiago de Cuba, while hundreds of protesters in the central city of Santa Clara marched in protest against the offices of the Communist Party, after a large informal public market in Santa Clara was closed down as part of the regime’s ruthless use of food rations to control the population. A protracted, year-long strike by independent transport workers broke the myth that concerted citizen resistance efforts can be stopped by the regime’s security forces.

The coronavirus pandemic may dampen public protests in some countries due to public-health limitations on large gatherings, but it may spur further protests elsewhere. Across Cuba, diverse citizen groups are daring to make public what they perceive as a lack of regime truthfulness on the true state of coronavirus in the island nation. There are well-founded fears that the regime will use the pretext of coronavirus containment measures to increase repression against the citizen movement even further, as it has in previous crises.

As the coronavirus continues to transform international relations, Latin America’s struggling democracies would do well to heed how quickly both biological and ideological viruses spread, and how virulent is their toll in human lives. Cuba’s and Venezuela’s parallel repression and hunger are cautionary tales. Likewise, the messages of harmful foreign actors should be rejected in the region. Behind the façade of economic investment and opportunity, the growing influence of the People’s Republic of China empowers the curses of cronyism, corruption, and centralized economic practices in a region that suffers from these already.

With few exceptions, free-market democracy has been making a comeback in the region in the past few years: Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, El Salvador, and others have left the failed socialist model behind. But the ideological struggle continues in Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua, in the failed states of Cuba and Venezuela, and in the perplexing cases of Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, and some Caribbean island states.

The United States must be prepared to assist regional democracies to withstand these twin viruses. It must also help free Latin American governments diplomatically and politically isolate the Communist virus in Havana, Caracas, and Managua, while supporting their citizens in their struggle for freedom. In all cases of containment measures during biological or ideological pandemic, time is of the essence.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/04/the-twin-contagions-facing-latin-america/

Cuban Studies Institute, April 1, 2020

The Military Elite of Cuba

The Castro Totalitarian Legacy

Pedro Roig J.D. and Alvaro Alba M.A.
Reviewed by Jaime Suchlicki, Ph.D.

THE ELITE ARMY CORP GENERALS IN ACTIVE SERVICE

The appointment of Manuel Marrero, on December 21, as Prime Minister.

The appointment of Manuel Marrero, on December 21, as Prime Minister.

In the first row, from left to right, Raul Castro Ruz and his grandson Mayor Raul Guillermo Rodriguez Castro. In the second row, the Army Corps Generals, from left to right, Joaquin Quinta Solas, Ramon Espinosa, Alvaro Lopez Miera and Leopoldo Cintra Frias, and on the far right, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz.

Full report by the Cuban Studies Institute is available here.]

#NoMoreInternalBlockade

Published March 30 2020 by the Patmos Institute

The Patmos Institute, a Cuban civil society network created to exercise and promote inter-religious dialogue; political influence; monitor and defend religious freedoms; and the general education on the issue of human rights; with a presence on the island, where it was founded Feb. 2 2013, and a presence abroad as a participant in Washington D.C. as an informal member of the meetings and petitions of The International Religious Freedom Roundtable, a group of NGOs that collaborate as a safe space for supporting religious freedom, endorses the petition “End the Internal Blockade in Cuba.”

Taking into special consideration the proliferation of #Covid19, one of the reasons mentioned in the petition, there’s an urgent need for an #AmnestyNow for all of the more than 120 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience on the island, and for about 8,400 others convicted under the abuse known as “pre-criminal social dangerousness,” as well as other prisoners who do not represent any danger to Cuban society yet are part of the 90,000 inmates held in Cuban prisons.

And taking into consideration the systematic violation of religious freedoms in Cuba (confirmed in the annual reports of the Patmos Institute as well as the Periodic Universal Examination of Cuba in Geneva in 2018) – violations that facilitate precisely the internal blockade mentioned in the petition as follows:

“Cuba has a permanent systemic crisis reflected in daily shortages of all types. That crisis will grow worse, to unimaginable levels, during and after the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic … We believe that this time of global reflection, of solidarity and of putting into practice the highest values of humanity, might touch the hearts of Raul Castro, Miguel Diaz Canel and all the leaders of the Communist Party to make them lift the internal blockade against the people of Cuba that has taken so many lives and caused so many material calamities for more than 60 years. We also believe that the people themselves should come to understand their situation and demand the respect and freedom we all deserve.

This would facilitate, in large measure, the direct cooperation of the Cuban family that lives abroad with the reconstruction of the nation and the immediate easing of the problems in every Cuban neighborhood. As well as boosting the creative capacity and entrepreneurship of all Cubans who live on the island.

Minimal starting gestures

*Order the end of the “prohibited” and “regulated” categories of people, so that thousands of doctors, sports figures, artists and citizens in general can enter and leave Cuba, in recognition of natural rights that cannot be denied to anyone.

*Lower the prices or suspend the payments for all ETECSA communications for three months.

*Suspend the high custom fees to facilitate a Cuban-to-Cuban humanitarian bridge that would permit the importation of large amounts of food and medicines, as well as farm equipment, production equipment for small businesses, transport and cargo vehicles, seeds, fertilizer, clothes, shoes and food of all types.

An effective and definitive dismantling of the internal blockage

*The release of all political prisoners

*Create conditions for free, pluralistic and competitive elections

*Constitutional guarantees of civil and political rights of all Cubans.

These actions will not only restore the inalienable rights of all the sons of Cuba, but will lead to the immediate disappearance of the U.S. embargo and all the political and commercial restrictions that different countries and groups of countries have imposed on the dictatorship for its constant violations of human rights, making way to a new period of peace, tolerance, progress and freedom.”

The petition may be signed on the following link:

http://chng.it/9BzJG8m7ML

It’s time to eliminate the iron-fisted internal blockade that the totalitarian system has imposed on its own people for more than six decades

https://www.cubacenter.org/petitions/2020/4/9/nomoreinternalblockade